April 16, 2024

Overcoming Healthcare Staffing Turbulence: Strategies for MSP Success

The healthcare industry has been on a wild ride. From the initial surge of COVID-19 to the "Great Resignation" and ongoing staffing shortages, healthcare institutions are facing unprecedented challenges. This volatility extends to healthcare staffing, creating a turbulent experience for both staffing providers and managed service programs (MSPs). A recent Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) report highlights these challenges and offers valuable insights for navigating the ever-changing landscape. By determining actionable strategies, MSPs can meet the current and future healthcare staffing demands of their clients.

Understanding the Current Landscape

“The healthcare staffing market is currently in a new stage of development, battling a chronic talent shortage, a workforce under a significant degree of stress and increased utilization of temporary workers,” SIA wrote in an editorial introducing the report. “The current situation is not just about a shortage of workers and new graduates, but of burnout and poor working conditions. Approximately 100,000 nurses left the workforce during the pandemic. By 2027, almost one-fifth of the 4.5 million total registered nurses intend to leave the workforce, threatening the national healthcare system at large, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.”

The report paints a clear picture of the current state of healthcare staffing:

  • Demand Outpaces Supply: The pandemic exacerbated the existing shortage of healthcare workers. Nurses, therapists, and other critical personnel are in high demand, leading to increased competition and rising costs.
  • Shifting Worker Preferences: The pandemic has fundamentally changed how healthcare workers view their careers. They prioritize work-life balance, flexibility, and competitive compensation. Traditional staffing models may not align with these evolving preferences.
  • Regulatory Changes: Regulatory changes and compliance requirements add layers of complexity to healthcare staffing.

The Pre-Pandemic Boom

The healthcare staffing industry was on an upswing before the pandemic. An aging population and a growing demand for healthcare services were driving the need for more nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals. Staffing firms were able to connect healthcare providers with qualified talent, filling critical gaps in the workforce.

The Pandemic Paradigm Shift

The outbreak and subsequent spread of COVID-19 brought major disruptions to the healthcare staffing space. The pandemic led to a surge in demand for healthcare workers, as hospitals and other healthcare providers scrambled to augment staff in order to care for COVID-19 patients. However, the pandemic also exacerbated the existing nursing shortage and led to widespread burnout among healthcare workers.

In response to the pandemic, healthcare staffing firms saw significant growth. Staffing firms were able to help healthcare providers staff up quickly and efficiently, playing a vital role in the fight against COVID-19.

The Chronic Talent Shortage

The healthcare industry now faces a chronic talent shortage. The aging population and growing demand for healthcare services continue to drive the need for more healthcare workers. However, the supply of qualified workers is not keeping pace with demand.

There are a number of factors contributing to the shortage. The aging of the healthcare workforce is a major factor. Many nurses and other healthcare professionals are nearing retirement age, and there are not enough new workers entering the workforce to replace them.

The pandemic also played a role in the talent shortage. Many healthcare workers left the profession due to burnout or stress. Others are hesitant to enter the healthcare field due to the challenges of the pandemic. MSPs and their staffing firms need to find new ways of attracting and retaining top talent — and that requires the adoption of new strategies. 

The Role of MSPs in a Volatile Market

MSPs play a crucial role in helping healthcare facilities navigate this challenging environment. They offer a comprehensive solution that streamlines and centralizes otherwise disjointed procurement and workforce management processes.

  • Vendor Management: MSPs streamline the vendor management process by consolidating staffing needs with a single provider. This reduces administrative burden for healthcare facilities.
  • Compliance Expertise: MSPs stay up-to-date on complex healthcare regulations and ensure staffing practices are compliant. They often have in-house experts dedicated to compliance monitoring and enforcement, in addition to internal legal teams.
  • Cost Optimization: By leveraging their expertise and volume discounts, MSPs can help facilities achieve cost efficiencies in their staffing strategies.

Strategies for MSPs to Meet Future Demands

To thrive in this dynamic market, MSPs need to adapt and implement strategic approaches. Here are key strategies outlined in SIA’s report. Barry Asin, the organization’s president, laid out three approaches: Lead, Adapt, or Get Out of the Way.


Invest in innovation and technology to attract and retain top talent. By leveraging and assisting their staffing partners, MSPs can gain a competitive advantage, solve client challenges, and simultaneously help bolster the strength of their supply base. Here are a few examples.

  • Collaborate with staffing partners to develop innovative recruitment strategies to attract top talent. This could include using new or emerging social media platforms, online job boards for clinical and allied professionals, and targeted advertising. 
  • Use technology to streamline the onboarding process. This could include using online applications, electronic signatures, and automated background checks. If the MSP has such tools available, it could extend access to staffing partners who have demonstrated capabilities in sourcing and filling roles but not necessarily the structure or scale to have these tools themselves.
  • Work with staffing suppliers to invest in training and development programs for healthcare workers. This will help to improve the skills and knowledge of every supplier’s workforce and make them more attractive to healthcare providers.
  • Use technology to connect healthcare workers with the right jobs. This could include using skills-based matching algorithms and artificial intelligence. Again, help suppliers by giving them access to use these features to strengthen the overall outcome of the program.


Adapt your business model to the changing needs of the healthcare industry. MSPs can develop relationships that suit current market conditions by partnering with other organizations to expand their reach and offer new services. 

  • Partner with healthcare providers to develop co-branded staffing programs.
  • Partner with educational institutions to develop training programs for healthcare workers.
  • Bring on new staffing firms with a particular niche. In a crowded market, it can be helpful to enlist smaller, more agile staffing providers that focus on a specific worker category, skill set, service, or industry. For example, a staffing firm could specialize in placing travel nurses, locum tenens physicians, or home health aides. These suppliers can attract and retain top talent and help the MSP build a stronger reputation across markets.

To meet future demands, MSPs must do more than just attract top talent; they also need to retain the talent they have. Sometimes, as we all know, client demands or supplier limitations can hobble those efforts. But this is where the MSP must shine as the intermediary between the client and the staffing partner. Work with both to develop strategies that will ensure retention.

  • Offer competitive salaries and benefits. When suppliers are bound by low markups and dwindling margins, they can’t pay clinical or allied talent the above average wages the market dictates without risking their own financial solvency. 
  • Provide opportunities for professional development.
  • Create a positive work culture. MSP program managers should take an active role in ensuring that contingent workers have support in hectic environments.
  • Recognize and reward top performers. Work with staffing partners to design incentives, bonuses, or perks for high producers. This not only encourages performance and retention, but it increases the likelihood of referrals and superior employment branding.
  • Offer temporary-to-permanent placement services. This can be a good option for healthcare providers who are looking to fill a position on a permanent basis but are not sure who the right candidate is.

Get Out of the Way

In some cases, the best way to meet future demands is to partner with other organizations. This could be a good option for MSPs that are looking to expand into new markets or offer new services. For example, MSPs could form relationships with healthcare recruitment technology companies, training institutions, medical universities, or physician-controlled placement agencies.

MSPs can also consider partnering with healthcare providers to develop customized staffing solutions. This could include working together to develop training programs or create career paths for healthcare workers.

Building a Sustainable Partnership with Staffing Providers

As an MSP, choosing the right healthcare staffing partner is crucial. Look for a provider that offers the following or collaborate with existing suppliers to help them refine their solutions.

  • A Strong Track Record in Healthcare: Experience in the healthcare industry is essential. Your partner should understand the unique needs and challenges of healthcare facilities.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: Your staffing needs will fluctuate. Choose a partner who can scale their services up or down to meet your demands. Very large enterprises can be slow to move. Smaller, more adaptable suppliers often excel in these areas. Give them a chance to participate in your programs.
  • Compliance Expertise: Ensure your staffing base stays current on healthcare regulations and can demonstrate a commitment to compliance.
  • Focus on Quality and Outcomes: Partner with staffing suppliers who prioritizes quality placements and positive outcomes for both healthcare facilities and workers.

Key Takeaways

The wildly shifting and sometimes chaotic swings of healthcare staffing are obstacles in the path of success for every stakeholder: clients, MSPs, staffing providers, and talent. Creativity, analysis, orientation, and execution will be needed to craft strategies that remove the barriers the industry is confronting. Here are some key takeaways to mull over as your organization prepares to push ahead in taming the chaos of a chronic healthcare talent shortage.

  • Embrace Technology and Automation: Technology can streamline processes, improve efficiency, and free up valuable time for MSP staff. Invest in solutions that automate tasks like credentialing, onboarding, and timesheet management. Consider applicant tracking systems (ATS) specifically designed for healthcare staffing to improve candidate screening and matching.
  • Build Strong Relationships with Healthcare Partners: Develop strong, collaborative relationships with healthcare facilities you serve. Understand their specific needs, challenges, and culture. Proactive communication and a consultative approach will foster trust and loyalty.
  • Focus on Niche Specialties: The demand for specialized healthcare workers is growing. Invest in building expertise in specific areas like telemedicine, home health, or behavioral health. This allows you to cater to a more targeted audience and command premium rates.
  • Expand Your Talent Pool: Don't limit your talent pool to traditional sources. Partner with educational institutions, healthcare professional associations, and veteran recruitment programs to tap into new demographics of qualified candidates.
  • Invest in Your Workforce: Healthcare workers are your most valuable asset. Develop competitive compensation packages, offer attractive benefits (including mental health support), and prioritize employee engagement and training. Consider offering career development programs and flexible work arrangements to retain top talent.
  • Embrace Data-Driven Decision Making: Leverage data analytics to gain valuable insights into staffing trends, worker demographics, and cost structures. Use this data to inform strategic decisions, optimize pricing models, and identify areas for improvement.
  • Stay Informed on Regulatory Changes: The regulatory landscape in healthcare is constantly evolving. Stay up-to-date on changes that impact staffing practices and ensure your MSP is fully compliant. Partner with legal or compliance experts if needed.

By working together, MSPs and healthcare staffing providers can navigate the ever-changing healthcare landscape and ensure a stable, qualified workforce for our nation's healthcare institutions.

Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

Continue reading

Our newsletter

Get great curated articles every week.

Combine sections from Ollie's vast component library and create beautiful, detailed pages.
No spam!

Innovative talent powering a brighter future.